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Timing Is Everything

December 16, 2020
All About Your Body Clock

The long-snapper hikes the ball, the holder sets it, the kicker puts shoe leather to ball leather as the clock ticks down to 1 second. Both benches and half the crowd hold their breath. The ball sails through the uprights and one bench and half the crowd goes nuts. The game’s over and they’ve won. With no time left on the clock.

Three minutes earlier than this, and even if the kicker had split the uprights, they would have left their opponents with enough time to march down the field and post a score to either tie or win the game. In the last 5 minutes of a football game, timing is everything.

He yawns and stretches his arms. And casually drapes his left arm around the shoulder of his date. She snuggles in closer. Thirty minutes earlier, and she wouldn’t have snuggled closer. Thirty minutes later and they would have been walking out of the theater. Timing is everything.

The Auctioneer raises his voice to say, “Going once, going twice…” A hand in the back goes up to make a bid and win the painting. Timing is everything at an art auction.

This time of year, lots of us are like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, waiting for the Christmas bonus check to come in at just the right time to cover our plans for a very merry Christmas. Some of us, like Clark, are likely to be disappointed when the check doesn’t come. Or when you get a Jelly of the Month voucher. (If this happens to you, I’m very sorry. And if you’ve got a Cousin Eddie, you could be in trouble…) With Christmas bonuses, timing is everything.

Nearly every opportunity is like that. Timing matters. I envy the people in my life who just have a knack for timing. Usually they’re the ones who learn about the half-price sale with 25% more off, and get the brand new driver I’d wind up paying full price for if my conscience would let me, for half what I would have paid. They can play the stock market and win most of the time. The can buy low and sell high. They do it with real estate, too. Me, I’ve managed to do the opposite of this on every home we’ve ever owned and sold. I’ve just got a knack. Timing is everything.

When it comes to timing, though, nobody’s got it down like God does. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in his letter to the church in Galatia: But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (Galatians 4:4,5 NLT)

The Christmas Story, the real one, is the ultimate in amazing timing.

There are a couple of things about this “right time” that are worth thinking about. First, the “right time” came 700 years after it had been promised in the prophecies of Isaiah and his fellow Jewish prophets. That’s 700 years of “are we there yet?” and “is it time yet?”

Lots of things happened between 700 BC and Jesus’ birth. Like, for instance, false teeth were invented in Italy in 700 BC. I didn’t know that either until I went to the Internet to see what had happened in those 700 years.

Confucius was born in 551 BC.

The Parthenon was built in 448 BC.

The Great Wall of China was built in 215 BC.

Cleopatra and Marc Antony committed suicide in 20 BC.

It’s out of chronological order, but I’ve got to mention that Malachi wrote his book of prophecy in about 430 BC. This is important because after that, there are 300 years of biblical silence. So by the time the “right time” came, lots had happened in the world, but there hadn’t been a word from the Lord in a very, very long time.

But in that time, Rome had begun to take the world (or most of it) by storm. Taking much of what they had learned from the Greeks, they created a governmental system that could support and sustain an empire that sprawled across the known world for a few hundred years. A strong military – the strongest in the world. Some domestic technology that would surprise you. (Look it up. You’ll be surprised. Here’s just 10: https://www.history.com/news/10-innovations-that-built-ancient-rome) And maybe the most important of these innovations was a road and highway system that made it possible for Rome to dispatch and return troops and legions across the Empire. All roads led to Rome. And there were lots of roads. Virtually every region under the rule of the Caesar benefited from a system of roads that has endured through to today.

These and many other things came together to make the “right time.”

The world had needed the Savior since Eve and Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit. But needed doesn’t always equal ready, and often way not the “right time.” A glance at the theologians of Jesus’ birth day gives you a sense that, although the world needed a Savior, these who should have known best the dynamics of the prophecies of his coming seemed tone deaf to it. On that level, they weren’t ready for it. Some would even say in denial of it. Either way, people who should have seen it coming seemed not to have.

If the world had been ready for Jesus’ birth, I wonder if He would have been turned out from an inn in a pretty obscure little village, born in a cave and laid in a feed trough (likely one carved out of a rock, not one made of wood). I wonder if He and His mom and step-dad would have had to flee for their lives when he was about two, when Herod sent troops to slaughter every boy 2 years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem? There’s a strong possibility that the story might have been quite different if Israel and the rest of the world had been ready.

An irony, in fact, is that Magi from the east – men who were for all practical purposes pagans – were more ready for His coming than the Jerusalem theologians.

The world’s need isn’t want made the time right. God’s design is what made the time right. When the time was right, “at just the right time,” in spite of the fact that the people who should have been ready for it weren’t, “God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.”

There’s so much in that. Too much for a blog that’s already running long. But the nugget I want to harvest from it is this: the reason for this greatest of all gifts is in the last of verse 5. “…so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

In a few weeks of overspending and frenetic activity, masked up and selectively moving about in an effort to make Christmas as “normal” as we can make it, I’m finding it easy to lose sight of the point. The real motive gets a little lost. As sons and daughters, adopted as God’s very own children, the point of the season is to gratefully, even enthusiastically, celebrate that the right time came, even though the world was less ready for it than it should have been.

I wonder, is it possible that in all my movement and activity and spending and sentiment, could it be that I’m no more ready for the Savior than they were? Could be. What about you? And what about your family?

As we turn back to the point, I wish you abundant joy this Christmas.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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